Friends of Brockport Dance recently sat down with MFA Graduate Students, Angie Muzzy, Matthew Frazier-Smith and Julia Zdrojewski to discuss the process of creating work for their thesis projects this semester. Together they talked about generating movement, themes in their work and their written research. Check out the conversation below:
Friends of Brockport Dance (FOBD): What themes or ideas are you exploring in your thesis work?
Angie Muzzy (AM): I’ve explored, as the process has unfolded, quite a few themes. Initially, I wanted to make a dance about “coolness,” particularly about females. Coolness in society is valued, but what about its representation? Does it represent confidence? A masculine appeal? Does it have a gender, and can it be embodied through movement? That unfolded; movement was created using dancers and then crafted to make a full piece.
Matthew Frazier- Smith: (MFS): I am currently (and forever) interested in process. For this work in particular, we are investigating how creative, unusual tasks can shape a specific movement vocabulary, and how that vocabulary can help shape the overall content of the work. Additionally, I am interested in the process of framing movement. How can/does one provide context? How can I shape a lens through which the audience is compelled to look? I am fascinated by how movement can be interpreted completely differently based on how it is framed or placed in context. We explored many strategies for sculpting context, and, as a result, content.
Julia Zdrojewski (JZ): I was interested in exploring stereotypes and/or standards of femininity. I used popular music from the 1960s, as well as costumes that suggested that world, particularly because I felt like it was a time where women in society were experiencing a lot of changes. There were five women in the piece, and I worked to make each of them be seen as individual women with separate identities, rather than clumping them together as a singular woman with a singular story.
FOBD: How, if at all, is your creative thesis related to your written thesis?
JZ: My written research focuses on the relationship between dance studies and feminist theories, so the two are very close in that way. I feel as though I’ve been writing for my thesis for the past two and a half years, so I have a version… soon it will take more of a formal shape though. Soon. I promise.
AM: My creative and written theses are slightly different, but live in the same world because they both come from me. My written thesis is on female identity and the solo aesthetic, specially pertaining to the advent of modern dance and how females used solo work as a platform for insistence and risk. The past two years have really prepared me, but the writing actually starts in December.
FOBD:Can you talk a little bit about working with your cast of dancers for the past several weeks?
MFS: These dancers are incredible. It is an honor to be working so intensely with artists who understand the value of rigorous play. We have created enough material—with text and movement—to last a lifetime. We spent loads of time creating material we will likely never use again, and I appreciate their ability and willingness to move forward and continue exploring. I very much admire the commitment, high-spirits, generosity, intelligence, and artistry they consistently share.
AM: My cast of dancers are all very different, and I was thoughtful in casting them because I was interested in their individual styles and demeanors. Working with them has been an amazing experience. We have fun, but we also get things done. Plus, it has been a real collaborative process, where they will get to make material that I go in and craft afterwards.
FOBD: What were the factors in choosing to premiere your thesis work in Strasser or the Visual Studies Workshop in Rochester?
JZ: Strasser was a space that I was really comfortable with. I liked the idea that the space we would be rehearsing in would also be where the piece would be performed. Plus, it feels very democratic- the dancers aren’t put on a high proscenium stage, they are seen in a realistic way from three sides, and I think those ideas aligned well with the work itself.
MFS: I was interested in gaining more experience producing my own work, and I was pleased with what VSW offers as a performance venue. About two years ago, I danced with Mariah Maloney Dance at VSW, and I found the management to be professional, accommodating, and generally great to work with.
AM: I wanted to produce a concert off campus to have the opportunity to create something that was solely my own. I wanted to make a longer dance, and utilize a different space where I am the artistic director, am in charge of my own promotion and set myself up for when I leave Brockport and will continue making work.
FOBD: Any advice to graduate students beginning their creative thesis projects in January?
AM: Go into the process knowing what you want, but be open to possibilities. Use your dances strengths and potentials. Don’t fret- it’s just a dance. It doesn’t have to be the greatest thing you’ve ever made, but you do certainly have to give it your all.
JZ: Nothing is too precious. You have more time than you think. Don’t be afraid to make choices.
MFS: I strongly believe patience is your best friend when developing rich material. If you’re not interested in it, investigate it more—or scrap it and explore something else. Once you lose interest, it will inevitably become contrived, bland, diluted, and other gross words. Oh yeah—and start reading/writing early because time flies when you’re having fun in thesis-land….the rides are short, the lines are long, and nobody is handing out free sunscreen. What does that mean? I have no idea. Just make sure you start writing early.